reuters

It was time to take Koeman out

For now, Sergi Barjuán will take on the role. As an ex-player he understands the requirements

ROB PALMER

When Ronald Koeman tried to convince the fans that his Barcelona team had "... played a good game" and the defeat to Rayo Vallecano "... wasn't fair" we all knew it was time for him to step aside and take a rest from the pressures of football.

I'm not one to ever call for anyone to lose their job and abhor phone-ins or social media pile-ons where they demand the sacking of a football manager.

Barcelona hung on, hoping a club playing legend would come good in difficult circumstances as a successful coach. There were mitigating circumstances with the sale of Lionel Messi, financial irregularities, and a long casualty list. He could do nothing about any of the above.

However, when the mighty Barca continued to throw captain Gerard Pique up-front as an emergency centre-forward and Koeman sends teenagers into battle without any clear instruction, it is time for a re-boot.

As I commentated on their dismal performance at Rayo Vallecano, the camera kept panning to the Dutchman who sat on his seat perplexed. It was the look of a man on a train who had given up on a crossword puzzle.

The performance was the worst I'd commentated on in a quarter of a century of calling Barcelona games. It was listless and disjointed. The players looked lost and lacked any leadership.

Yes, it was a famous evening for the humble club with a three-sided stadium on the outskirts of Madrid. Bear in mind they take an annual hammering from Barca, hadn't beaten them in nineteen years, and in that time Barca have averaged over four goals per game.

Koeman reminded me of a teacher who had lost control of his class. Relieving him of his duties is an act of kindness as well as a necessity to stop the rot.

I know from experience how much he loved the club and desired the job. When we spoke in his time at Everton his eyes lit up when we discussed the club where he attained legendary status for scoring the winning goal in the 1992 European Cup Final. Remember, he left a cushy job leading his country to take on the role at the Camp Nou.

Sadly, he's a figurehead manager rather than a grass-roots coach. There's nothing wrong with that if he has a settled team of international class players as was the case with the Netherlands. He speaks, they listen, the team performs.

As issues unfolded at Barcelona, they needed someone who would get his boots dirty by diving right into the middle of training sessions. They needed a mechanic who would fix things. Week by week bits were falling off the once-sleek vehicle and they were ignored to such an extent that it started to malfunction.

Some think they avoided replacing him because he is a club legend. Truthfully it probably came down to finances. It is well reported that he will be due a hefty severance package and there is still apparently a debt to the Dutch for buying him out of his contract.

But after the Rayo debacle and his refusal to acknowledge just how bad it was becoming; it was time to take him out of his misery and allow him to head off to a far-away beach to recover from the turmoil.

For now, Sergi Barjuán will take on the role. He's been coaching many of the kids who have been asked to do a man's job. As an ex-player he understands the requirements. It worked out well for previous coaches who were promoted from the second team. Surely, he can't be as good as Pep Guardiola or Luis Enrique? They just ask that he's not as bad as Ronald Koeman.